Originally written for Donny Osmond, "Ben" was offered to Jackson as Osmond was on tour at the time and unavailable for recording. In addition to its one week at #1 in the U.S., the song also later reached a peak of number seven on the British pop chart. "Ben" won a Golden Globe for Best Song. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1973; Jackson performed the song in front of a live audience at the ceremony.
Although Jackson had already become the youngest artist to ever record a number-one ("I Want You Back" with The Jackson 5, in 1970), "Ben" made him the third-youngest solo artist, at fourteen, to score a number-one hit single. Only Stevie Wonder, who was thirteen when "Fingertips, Pt. 2" went to number one, and Donny Osmond, who was months shy of his fourteenth birthday when "Go Away Little Girl" hit number one in 1971 were younger. The song is one of Jackson's most re-released, having appeared on The Jackson 5 Anthology, The Best of Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson Anthology, Jackson 5: The Ultimate Collection, The Essential Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection, Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection, The Definitive Collection, Number Ones and King Of Pop. A live recorded version was released on the 1981 album The Jacksons Live! and remixed versions have appeared on The Remix Suite, Michael Jackson: The Stripped Mixes and some versions of Immortal. After Jackson's death, singer Akon released a remix of the song with his own background vocals and Jackson's original voice. In 1985, the song became a top ten hit again in the UK when covered by Marti Webb as a tribute to Ben Hardwick, a young liver transplant patient. This version reached number five in the UK charts and was one of the singer's biggest hits. The co-writer of the song Don Black was at that time Webb's manager. In 1997, the Irish boy band Boyzone did a cover version for their album A Different Beat. The song is played in the key of F Major at a tempo of 88bpm. The vocal range is B3-D5. Michael Jackson performed the song on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and American Bandstand in the early 1970s, and again in 1976 on The Jacksons in tribute to Gentle Ben the bear.